by Shubham Ghosh
Politics is a funny game. In fact, it is a great leveller. Three years ago, when Narendra Modi stormed the citadel of power in New Delhi, leaving a lot of people stunned as well as amused, it was thought that he could do no wrong. The shrewd politician in Modi also took this opportunity to set up the Bharatiya Janata Party 2.0 in which the old brass was sent into retirement. The process, in fact, had set off even before the 2014 LokSabha elections were fought. The likes of Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh were craftily sidelined. Even the great Atal Behari Vajpayee was dropped from the BJP’s Parliamentary Board, its highest decision-making body.
On the face of it, the veterans of NDA I were made glorified extras but in reality, everybody knew they were eclipsed by Team Modi which would only see the current prime minister as its biggest brand. For Modi, the road was clear for him to emerge as a statesman with a legacy.
But this game always ran a risk. We often see in sporting disciplines like cricket a new captain picks the team of his liking and eclipses the old guard. In a sport, the exuberance of youth can make up for its inexperience and the new captain can still get away with the laurels. But in politics, the opposite is the norm. Here, experience has no alternative and sidelining an entire generation of experienced lieutenants is not just naïve but dangerous as well.
The sharp criticism that former Union finance ministerYaswantSinha has come up with against the Modi government’s economic performance testifies this fact. Sinha, who had served as the FM in governments of Chandra Sekhar and Vajpayee (in a way, he is the only finance minister to have served in both pre- and post-liberalisation India other than Pranab Mukherjee), has lashed out at the current Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, accusing him of leaving the economy in a mess. Sinha, who will turn 80 this November, said he felt it was his “national duty” to speak up on the issue and also added that a lot of people in the BJP knew about the facts but were afraid to speak up.
The BJP, as usual, has snubbed Sinha saying everything was okay with the Indian economy. Now, the problem is economics is a science in itself and will not follow what political masters say. A lot of voices have already been heard against the Modi government’s economic adventures – from advisers and of course the Opposition. But when a veteran from the BJP who himself had served as the finance minister speaks out against his own party’s government, there is something seriously wrong.
It is very important for the BJP leadership to sit with Sinha and understand his viewpoints and also seek suggestions from his experience. Denial of the problem is only going to aggravate it and the entire country will have to pay for the blunders.
As an outsider in Lutyens, Modi always had a heavy onus on his shoulders to succeed as the prime minister, especially when he had few friends – in politics and media. He, therefore, needed to take into confidence the old guard which has the experience of running a government in the past so that the same mistakes that led to the downfall of the Vajpayee government in 2004 were not repeated. But Modi headed to the opposite direction. His adventurism in the form of demonetisation seemed more of an act of playing to the gallery without taking into consideration the adversity it could bring. The lack of experience and sound advice was clearly showing. One could also say that Sinha found this an apt opportunity to avenge the snubbing by the current BJP leadership but he can’t really be blamed for it. The Modi government has now more headaches to treat than not.